Archives for category: Bush, Jeb

Florida has a large teacher shortage, about 10,000 at last count. Under the tutelage of Jeb Bush, the Florida Legislature has made testing and privatization the centerpiece of state education policy, while treating public schools and their teachers as enemies for almost 20 years. Florida holds public schools to strict accountability, based on test scores, but imposes no accountability for the religious schools that get vouchers, and showers state money on charters. The Legislature seems to be intent on replacing public schools with charters (half of which operate for-profit) and vouchers and replacing teachers with computers.

This teacher from Polk County has had enough. 

Shanna L. Fox writes:

Stand Up and Fight – An Open Letter of Resignation
There is no business model that can fix education. Students are not products and services that can be quantified. They are living, breathing human beings and their complexity cannot be reduced to cells on a spreadsheet.
Each child comes with their own set of needs, strengths, and abilities. Teachers must be provided the freedom to address those in the way that they professionally know is best based on their training and education.
My expertise is in a Language Arts classroom, so this is what I see most clearly. Students can analyze the hell out of a text. But testing has chipped away at the time teachers have to help their students write to inspire, write to express, write to create, write to change the world. Because what matters, in today’s education system, is one single way of writing. The thing is, our students are whole people, and this only provides them a chance to show a tiny sliver of who they are.
It’s not only Language Arts, though. This toxic testing nightmare has stripped students of the opportunity to foster their creativity in every single subject area. Children are being denied the right to express themselves in their own unique ways. They yearn for the chance to be artistic and imaginative, to be inspired and inspire others, and to innovate and build and solve. They are capable of more than simply working toward a test score. They deserve more.
And it is time for me to stand up and fight for them and the profession I love.
After twenty years, the decision to resign did not come easily. In fact, it has taken me two months to process and collect my thoughts and to muster up the courage to share them here.
Leaving my stable, secure career as a classroom teacher was risky. I was willing to risk everything because giving it all up feels like freedom in comparison to the restriction in which I was living.
My decision to walk away was not impulsive. It was years in the making. I almost walked away last year. I almost walked away two years ago. When I finally gained the courage, it wasn’t the administration, the school, or the students. And it certainly wasn’t my wonderful colleagues. None of those things drove me away. Instead, I was battle weary from years of working in a broken system. And honestly, I could not face another testing season.
I thought this transition would be more difficult than it has been. I thought I would be devastated and depressed. But I haven’t been. Now, I realize why. The truth is, I have been grieving the loss of my profession for years. I was grieving the time I used to have to foster meaningful relationships with my students. I was grieving a time when I was trusted to teach well, based on my training and knowledge. I was grieving a time when student creativity was valued over a test score.
But that simply isn’t the reality anymore. 
Over the past six years, I changed grade levels, campuses, and roles. I even returned to the school that felt like “home” with the people who I consider family. I searched tirelessly for the thing that would reignite my passion for teaching and renew my sense of hope for the future of the public school system. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t find it. 
And I’m not alone. This has been called a silent strike – teachers exiting the profession prematurely or retiring early. But I, for one, will not leave silently. Although I can no longer work within this broken system, I will stand and fight from where I am now. I will work to fix it.
I am not writing to encourage others to leave teaching. This was a personal, individual decision that I made to preserve my physical, mental, and emotional health. But if you do decide to walk away, as I did, please do not be silent. If you’ve already exited or retired early, for your very own unique reasons, please speak up. This shouldn’t be a silent strike. It should be the loudest protest of all time because speaking up for public education is speaking up for our children and, quite frankly, for the foundation of our democracy.
To my colleagues who continue to work for change within their classroom walls, I am standing by your side. I support you. I know you are doing what is best for your students, even with mounting pressures, longer task lists than ever before, and mandates upon mandates. I applaud your strength and dedication. I can’t wait to meet Bella’s amazing teachers during her upcoming journey as a public school student. I hope they are just like you.
To my former students, you are the reason I stayed for twenty years. As a teacher, I learned so much from you. And now, I marvel at your continued success, your ability to achieve your dreams, and your capacity to tackle the obstacles of life. I was proud of you then, and I am proud of you now – every single day. 
To the Polk Education Association, I thank you for your tireless efforts to quell the overwhelming tide of negativity. I know that you fight tooth and nail for every single right, benefit, and dollar that PCPS employees get. I am proud to have been a member of the union. I may not be working from the inside anymore. But I will be here, battling right alongside you. After all, you’re the ones who taught me how.
I’ll be honest. When I was a Polk County Public Schools employee, I didn’t take a stand each time there was an opportunity to do so. But I know that I did not take this career risk to sit on the sidelines and watch.
I’m standing now.
I am standing for our students.
I am standing for our teachers. 
I am standing for public education.
In solidarity,
Shanna R. Fox


Audrey Amrein-Beardsley is an education scholar who specializes in smoking out quack reforms, like the “value-added” accountability measures used to judge teacher quality.

In this post, She investigates whether the 13 states that grade states with a single letter grade of A-F achieve higher scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress after implementing this strategy. 

Jeb Bush initiated the idea of giving schools a single letter grade.

I have long believed that it was a singularly stupid idea. If your child came home from school with a report card that contained only one letter grade, you as a parent would be outraged. No individual child is an A or B or C or D or F. She may be great in math but weak in science, average in reading but excellent in art or history.

If it’s wrong to give a single letter grade to one child, it is ludicrous to give a single letter grade to an institution that has hundreds of students, staff, programs, etc.

Amrein-Beardsley concluded:

In reality, how these states performed post-implementation is not much different from random, or a flip of the coin. As such, these results should speak directly to other states already, or considering, investing human and financial resources in such state-level, test-based accountability policies.

In short, this is a costly and useless school reform policy that benefits no one.

Sue M. Legg is a scholar at the University of Florida, a leader in Florida’s League of Women Voters, and a new board member of the Network for Public Education. She has written an incisive and devastating critique of Jeb Bush’s education program in Florida, which began twenty years ago. Bush called it his A+ Plan, but by her careful analysis, it rates an F. Advocates of school choice tout Florida’s fourth-grade scores on NAEP, which are artificially inflated by holding back third graders who dontpass the state test. By eighth grade, Florida’s students rank no better than the national average. Note to “Reformers”: a state that ranks “average” is NOT a national model.

Twenty Years Later, Jeb Bush’s A+ Plan Fails Florida’s Students. 

Sue Legg explodes the myth of the Florida miracle in her well documented report:  Twenty Years Later: Jeb Bush’s A+ Plan Fails Florida’s Students. She has compiled the research over twenty years showing the negative impact of privatization in Florida.  The highly touted achievement gains of retained third graders are lost by eighth grade.  Top ranked fourth grade NAEP scores fall to the national average by eighth grade. One half of twelfth graders read below grade level.  The graduation rate is above only 14 states.

The A+ Plan was a great slogan, but its defects resulted in a twenty-year cycle of trial and error to fix the problems.   School grades are unreliable.  A school receiving a ‘B’ grade one year has about a thirty percent chance of retaining the grade the following year. Invalid grades occur so frequently that State Impact reports that Florida made sixteen changes to the school grade formula since 2010.  It was thrown out but the new version is no more stable.  What it means to be a failing school, moreover, is consistently redefined to make more opportunity for charter school takeovers.  

Florida touts improving academic achievement in the private sector that is not supported by research.  The CREDO Study reams Florida’s for-profit charter industry.  According to a Brookings Institution study, low quality private schools are on the rise, and the LeRoy Collins Institute’s 2017 study, Tough Choices, explains that there are twice as many severely segregated Florida schools (90% non-white students) than there were in 1994-5.  The legislature ignores the problem in part because key legislators have personal interest in charter and private schools.  “Florida suits him” said Roger Stone, recently indicted in the Mueller investigation.  The New York Times article: Stone Cold Loser: quoted Stone’s admiration for Florida when he said “…it was a sunny place for shady people”.  Miami Herald series “Cashing in on Kids” reported a list of questionable land deals and conflicts of interest by for-profit charter school management. The federal government began an investigation in 2014.  Last year a  charter management firm faced criminal charges, and Florida charters have the nation’s highest closure rate.

WalletHub reports that Florida is 47th of 50 states in working conditions for teachers.  As a result, the Florida Education Association projects 10,000 vacancies next fall. Teacher shortages are not only related to money, they are due to a deliberate attack on the profession in order to break teacher unions and impose a political ideology.  As Steve Denning in a Forbes magazine article explains: “The system” grinds forward, at ever increasing cost and declining efficiency, dispiriting students, teachers and schools alike”. The thinking, he says, is embedded in the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Race to the Top policies.   The A+ Plan is an extension of these policies that includes increased testing and rewards and punishments related to results.

Florida’s teachers are not allowed to strike.  Parents may have to.  The legislature recently approved small raises for teachers but expanded the unconstitutional voucher program.  The governor is not concerned; he appointed three new judges to the Florida Supreme Court.  In the May 3rd 2019 Senate session, Senator Tom Lee chastised his fellow Republicans.  He has supported charter schools for years, but said ‘the industry has not been honest with us...first they wanted PECO facility funds, then local millage; now they want a portion of local discretionary referendum funds.  He called the current supporters ‘ideologues who have drunk the kool-aid‘.

The full report is published on the NPE-Action website.


The Gainesville Sun published an editorial denouncing the newRepublican voucher program, which diverts money from public schools to unaccountable private and religious schools.

“Last week, Florida lawmakers voted to raid taxpayer money meant for public education to pay for middle-income families to send their children to private schools.

“They passed the measure despite these largely religious schools lacking the standards and other requirements that the state has piled on public schools. They passed the legislation despite the Florida Supreme Court rejecting a similar measure as unconstitutional in 2006.

“They even included $250,000 in the state budget for an expected legal fight but are surely expecting a positive outcome this time around before a state Supreme Court that had three new conservative members appointed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“After all, DeSantis has declared that “if the taxpayer is paying for education, it’s public education.″ He appears unconcerned with the consequences of continuing to divert money meant for traditional public schools to private and charter schools, while saddling traditional public schools with mandates that make it harder for educators to do their jobs and students to succeed.

“The newly passed legislation creates 18,000 vouchers at an initial cost of around $130 million, with the numbers rising in subsequent years. Families making up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, or $77,250 a year for a family of four, would be eligible for the new vouchers.

“Unlike previous private school “scholarships” provided to lower-income families, the funding for these vouchers would come directly out of the pot of money intended for public schools. Yet the Republican-controlled Legislature rejected amendments proposed by Democrats to increase accountability for these schools to anywhere near the level of their public counterparts…

“Florida has repeatedly ranked near the bottom of the country in teacher pay and per-pupil funding, and the voucher plan in the long term will only make things worse.

“The vouchers will accelerate a two decade-long trend of the state shifting money to private and charter schools at the expense of traditional public schools, creating parallel education systems held to different standards. The trend started under Gov. Jeb Bush, who was in the House chambers last week to celebrate the bill’s passage.”


Spurred on by Governor Ron DeSantis, Jeb Bush, and Betsy DeVos, the Florida Senate endorsed a fifth private voucher program. 

“The bill would create a new Family Empowerment Scholarship — the state’s fifth voucher program — that could help up to 18,000 students pay private school tuition with state-backed scholarships. The program would target youngsters from low-income families but could be open to more middle class ones, too, with an income limit of nearly $80,000 for a family of four….

“Every parent knows what’s best for their individual child, and at no point should we turn over that responsibility to the government,” said Sen. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, one of the bill’s sponsors.”

The new program would be funded with money taken from the state education budget, up to $130 million. Other vouchers programs are “tax credits” given to corporations or individuals. Because this money comes right out of the state budget, it might be subject to legal challenge since it directly violates the state constitution’s prohibition on public money for religious schools.

Republicans are betting that the state courts will ignore the state constitution and the 2012 referendum that went against Jeb Bush’s effort to change that provision of the state constitution.

More than 80% of students using vouchers attend religious schools. Voucher schools “do not have to give students state tests nor meet state standards when it comes to academics, teacher credentials or facilities.”

Florida Republicans continue their  assault on public schools.

Florida is no model for the nation.

On the NAEP, Florida ranks at the national average in 8th grade reading and math. It has large achievement gaps between black and white students. Ignore Florida’s fourth grade scores; they are tainted by the state policy of retaining third grade students who don’t pass the state reading test.

I don’t know whether voucher students are included in NAEP’s sample. The State makes sure they are not included on state tests.



Florida has the worst education policies of any state in the nation, and it is about to get even more destructive, more ignorant, more backward.

Read this alarming article and remember that Betsy DeVos points to Florida as a model.

A model, yes. A model of how religious extremists, rightwing ideologues, and uneducated political hacks can destroy public education, drive away teachers, and fund “schools” that indoctrinate students in religious dogma.

The post was written by Kathleen Oropeza Parent Activist in Orlando.

Jeb Bush started the descent into the swamp of ignorance. Now the torch is carried by Ron DeSantis, who wants to arm teachers, expand the state’s voucher programs to include middle-class families with income up to $100,000 a year, reduce the power of local school boards so they can’t block new charter schools, and undercut public schools in every way their little minds can imagine.

Oropeza writes:

“Pay attention, because what happens in Florida usually shows up in the thirty or so other states under GOP control.

“Step one for DeSantis was to stock the State Supreme Court with three conservative judges. Next, DeSantis charged the Board of Education with appointing Richard Corcoran as State Commissioner of Education. As the immediate past Speaker of the Florida House, Corcoran was the architect of the “school choice” expansions logrolled into multi-subject, opaque omnibus bills that became law over the past several sessions.

“DeSantis, a known Trump ally, made it clear in his proposed education visionto legislators before the the start of the 2019 session that they should “send me a bill” for a new private school tax-funded voucher program. The DeSantis voucher became SB 7070/HB 7075, the radical Family Empowerment Scholarship Program. Funded through the Florida Education Finance Program from property taxes, this is a dangerous co-mingling of the already thin dollars designated for Florida’s district public schools.

“In a state that prizes high-stakes accountability for its public-school students, these vouchers go to unregulated private schools that maintain their right to discriminate against certain students, charge more than the voucher for tuition, teach extreme curriculums, and are not required to ensure student safety or hire certified teachers. This dramatic expansion of private religious school vouchers, once meant for low-income recipients, is morphing into a middle-class entitlement program for families of four making close to $100,000 a year….

”On teacher pay, DeSantis wants to double down on the awful policy of providing bonuses instead of raises via SB7070. Teacher pay in Florida ranks 45th in the nation: $47,858 on average. The state is struggling with a massive teacher shortage projected by the Florida Department of Education to reach 10,000 vacancies by the start of next school year.”

As Oropeza points out, no one ever bought a home with a one-time bonus (except on Wall Street).

”DeSantis supporter Representative Kim Daniels continues to insert religioninto public schools this session by sponsoring HB 195. This is model legislation from ALEC-like Christian Nationalist Project Blitz. Daniels, a Democrat, passed a 2018 law requiring “In God We Trust” to be displayed in public schools. This year Daniels is pushing Blitz legislation requiring public high schools to offer a religion class that teaches only Christianity.”

Another bill allows schools to withdraw any book that is “morally offensive,” such as Frank McCourt’s “Angela’s Ashes.” Expect to see demands to remove a lot of “morally offensive” classics by authors such as John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Harper Lee, and Mark Twain.

“Another bill, HB 330 by Senator Dennis Baxley, the original sponsor of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, seeks to revise curriculum standards and force public schools to teach “science” theories such as creationism and alternate views to subjects such as climate change.”

Florida is indeed a model: a model of kakistocracy.

Look it up.



One of Jeb Bush’s signature initiatives–and possibly the stupidest–was giving schools letter grades of A-F.

Schools are complex institutions with many individuals engaged in their work, some doing better jobs than others, some essential, some not. No complex institution should be graded A-F. No individual child should be graded with a single letter, A-F. Imagine if your child came home with a report card that held only one letter, A-F. As a parent, you would be outraged. You would know that she was good at this, not so good at that, that there were many ways of describing her efforts and abilities and skills and work. How dumb it is to grade an entire school with a single letter.

Yet the Florida model of testing, accountability, choice, punishments, and rewards goes wherever there are rightwing zealots who want to destroy public education.

New Mexico had the misfortune of electing a Republican governor who wanted to be just like Jeb. She hired a non-educator, Hannah Skandera, as the state’s commissioner of education (Skandera had worked for Jeb), and she tried to import the Florida model. After seven years, Skandera left, and New Mexico saw zero improvement in education by any metric.

Fortunately Susana Martinez was replaced by a Democratic governor, former Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham, who has been removing every trace of the Florida model. In January she eliminated the state’s disastrous teacher-evaluation system and the hated PARCC tests, which had been imposed by Martinez’s executive orders.

Yesterday, with the stroke of a pen, she repealed the state’s A-F grading system. The state’s Public Education Department must now devise a new accountability system to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. The bill now under consideration in the legislature calls for a “dashboard showing how each of the state’s public schools are faring in terms of graduation rates, student proficiency outcomes, reliance on federal Title I funds and the progress of English-language learners.”

Of course, this too appeals to the idea that parents are consumers, not citizens bound to work together for better public schools.

New Mexico has extremely high levels of child poverty, the second worst in the nation after Mississippi. Standards, accountability, and choice doesn’t cure that. It also ranks at the very bottom of NAEP, close to the other poor states. The Florida Model pretends that poverty doesn’t matter. Skandera’s failure proved that it does.

The state currently grades schools on a complex range of measures, including graduation rates, student performance on standardized tests, student attendance and parental involvement in schools. Advocates believe these grades provide a clear picture of how schools are performing and encourage communities to help struggling schools. Critics say the formula is so confusing that the grades are of little use. They also complain that the system relies too much on standardized test scores.

Several years ago, a group of Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists said even they struggled to make sense of the complicated grading system.

John Thompson, retired teacher in Oklahoma, reads the Reformer press closely. He notices a change in tactics, a stubborn refusal to acknowledge failure, and a determination to adhere to privatization of public schools by any means necessary. He appreciates the journalism of Matt Barnum of Chalkbeat for reporting what the Reformers say to one another. They have not backed away one iota from their rock-solid belief that private management is the sure cure for low test scores, despite the failure of the Tennessee Achievement School District and the Michigan Education Achievement Authority and every similar program that claimed to bring in “high-performing seats” (one of my favorite Reformer phrases, as though the seats themselves are magical).

Stop the presses!

Jeb Bush’s ExcelinEd has listened and it is rethinking its entire campaign to privatize public schools! The corporate reform group that helped give us Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education is acknowledging the harm done by test-driven, competition-driven reform. ExcelinEd is rethinking standardized testing, rapid transformative change and even the Billionaires Boys Club’s new panacea – “personalized learning!” Maybe the next step will be apologies for pushing the mass firing of teachers and Common Core!

Oops! ExcelinEd isn’t facing up to the failure of its education agenda. It is merely shifting its public relations spin!

Chalkbeat’s Matt Barnum is illuminating efforts by ExcelinEd, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and other corporate reformers’ new campaign to “drum up support.” He explains how a new “messaging document” offers “a revealing look at how some backers are trying to sell their approach.”
Although ExcelinEd and others refuse to listen to educators and researchers on why their education experiments failed, the authors of their new document, Karla Phillips and Amy Jenkins, “have read the angry op-eds and watched tension-filled board meetings.” So they are rebranding personalized learning and other reforms as things that patrons don’t need to fear.

For instance, Barnum explains, “the report suggests telling parents that ‘personalized learning provides opportunities for increased interaction with teachers and peers and encourages higher levels of student engagement.’” He then fact checks that new talking point:

If anything, though, existing research suggests that certain personalized learning programs reduce student engagement. In a 2015 study by RAND, commissioned by the Gates Foundation, students in schools that have embraced technology-based personalized learning were somewhat less likely to say they felt engaged in and enjoyed school work. A 2017 RAND study found that students were 9 percentage points less likely to say there was an adult at school who knew them well.

Follow the link to the messaging document and it is clear that these ideology-driven corporate reformers are not stepping back from bubble-in accountability and other top-down mandates. They warn their troops, however, that the mere mention of testing drives down interest in personalized learning.

Click to access Communicating-Personalized-Learning-to-Families-and-Stakeholders.pdf

Real world, personalized learning is producing questionable results. It is clear that personalized learning can benefit some students, as it harms others. Underfunded schools and overworked teachers can’t magically implement the rushed plans for online learning and offer real, meaningful, individualized lessons. Often digital instruction devolves into dummied-down efforts to “pass kids on.” The dangers of too much screen time and the gathering of individual data by corporations are well documented.

So, the spin consultants urge caution when “answering these questions without fueling opposition.” Corporate reformers are not necessarily backing off from their gamble in hurriedly imposing radical transformations. Instead, they realize that, “In attempting to generate excitement, we inadvertently scared the public,” So, reformers must “steer clear” of “talking up the potential for dramatic changes to the way school looks and feels.” They are also offering “preferred messaging” to district leaders for their staff and principals.

If anyone believes that the Billionaires Boys Club’s new messaging means they have really listened, they merely need to click on ExcelinEd’s web site. For instance, they haven’t even rejected the failed turnaround strategies that they and the federal government imposed on high-poverty schools. They still promote agendas like the mass replacement of staff in district schools. Then their new report, School Interventions Under ESSA: Harnessing High-Performing Charter Operators, emphasizes:

In districts where schools fail to turn around – or have already been failing for multiple years – states should consider the one option that can give students languishing in low-performing schools a higher quality option: bringing in high-performing charter schools.

It must be emphasized that this new advice on a more personal message for personalized learning and the kinder and gentler presentation of reward and punish policies does not mean that corporate reformers have checked their hubris.

They still plan to “go big, be bold, and be impatient.”

Barnum has been good at shining a light on the ways that reformers are reworking their message, but these social engineers are trying to improve their PR, and hiding their antagonism towards educators. The Fordham Institute has been especially open about their movement’s “internecine feud,” that some call “the end of education policy,” while not hiding their anger towards practitioners. For instance, Dale Chu wrote:

If 2018 marks the end of education policy, whatever comes next has gotten off to an inauspicious start for reformers and stand-patters alike.

Follow his second link to read Robin Lake’s full twitter statement which concludes:

There are certainly “stand-patters”: people who don’t believe any structural/policy changes are needed in public ed. I have little to discuss w them.

And please don’t forget the ways that Chu characterizes those of us who oppose their theories based on research and our classroom experiences. He labels us as “forces of resistance,” “their ilk,” those whose actions are inimical to improvement, and “hyperbolic at best.” He praises Howard Fuller’s “prescient warning” that “too many reformers had mistaken what was a street fight for a college debate.”

As the corporate reformers air their dirty laundry, the observations of conservative Little “r” reformer Rick Hess are especially illustrative. Hess spoofs the Big “R” Reformers’ new message, “we’re ready to listen.” He explains why this new tactic “feels like performance art.”

Hess explains, “If one is emotionally invested in a bold sweeping agenda to ‘fix’ American education, it’s tough to regard disagreement, dissent or skepticism as anything other than a moral failure.” He concludes, “for those invested in Big ‘R’ Reform, listening is mostly a stratagem.” It is a self-reinforcing insular dogma.” Changing their mindset is “quite a challenge when the mantra is ‘go big, be bold, and be impatient.’”

In Oklahoma, this pattern is being displayed by Epic Charter, as well as ExcelinEd, but the same story is being told across the nation.

Student needs matter more than school delivery model.

Betsy DeVos says that Florida is a national model.

She loves Florida because she invested millions of dollars imposing vouchers and charters, despite the provision of the State Constitution that requires a uniform system of common schools.

Actually, Florida’s performance on NAEP is mediocre. Its fourth grade scores are swell because low-scoring third-graders are not allowed to enter fourth grade. A really neat trick! Pay attention to eighth grade scores: In eighth grade math, students in Florida are well below the national average. In eighth grade reading, Florida is right at the national average. Nothing impressive about Florida, other than gaming the fourth grade scores by holding back third-graders with low scores. By eighth grade, the game is over, and the results are not impressive.

Thompson says that Oklahoma lawmakers are in love with a libertarian study claiming that spending less produces the best education! Is that why the elites spend $50,000 a year or more on tuition to get lower class sizes and experienced teachers? The only time that money doesn’t matter is if you have a lot of it.

Despite Florida being average on NAEP, Oklahoma legislators hope to be just like Florida!

John Thompson, historian and retired teacher, brings us up to date:

Oklahoma edu-politics remains in the spotlight after the 2018 election and it illustrates plenty of national issues. Despite many electoral gains, educators must worry about the state’s inexperienced governor, Kevin Stitt. It sometimes seems like Jeb Bush’s “astroturf” think tank, ExcelinEd, has found a second home in our State Capitol. Will the governor believe their spin?

Even worse, as reported by Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post, Republicans are being pressured by their own party to even “‘abolish public education, which is not a proper role of government, and allow the free market to determine pay and funding, eliminating the annual heartache we experience over this subject.’” The claim is that the state can reduce “‘its dependence on the tax structure by funding it through such means as sponsorships, advertising, endowments, tuition fees, etc.’”

More importantly, the Oklahoman newspaper recently editorialized that our state should learn from the Reason Foundation, and from Florida, which supposedly is “the state achieving the greatest efficacy in education spending.” The editorial mistakenly claimed that the reforms Oklahoma implemented in 2011 and 2012, but that have been watered down in our state, have worked in Florida. The newspaper concludes, “Instead of backing off, Reason’s education rankings indicate Oklahoma lawmakers should double down” on their accountability-driven, choice-driven reforms.

In fact, Florida’s 3rd grade retention policy has not been shown to do more good than harm to students, although “if you hold back low-performing third graders, the fourth grade scores the next year will appear to jump.” Even charter supporters such as those at CREDO acknowledge that Florida’s charters have not increased student outcomes, largely resulting in a decline of student performance. And the state’s online for-profit charters have a three-year attrition rate of 99 percent, and have driven down student performance gains by as much as -.46 std, which is approaching the loss of a year of learning, per year.

Click to access TT_Mathis_BushEd.pdf

Click to access Online%20Charter%20Study%20Final.pdf

Reason’s “Find Everything You Know about State Education Rankings Is Wrong,” by Stan J. Liebowitz and Matthew L. Kelly claims to be the antithesis of “the self-serving interests of education functionaries who only gain from higher spending.” If the tone of the article doesn’t set off alarms, a review of its methodology shows its conclusions were preordained by a journal devoted to “Free Markets.” These sorts of papers serve as props for advancing the claim that money doesn’t matter.

As Rutgers’ Bruce Baker explains, Reason’s authors “confidently assert that the higher performing states are those with a) weaker teachers’ unions and b) more children in charter schools.” However, they overlook a vast body of research to the contrary. They also ignore economic status and weight racial groups as equal factors in a way that is “specious at best,” and produced findings that “would only mislead policymakers.”

Student performance is determined more by the kids’ zip code than by the classroom. So why didn’t Reason and its paper attempt to control for economic disadvantage?

Reason uses race as a substitute for economic advantage and disadvantage in a manner that is not only methodologically indefensible; it is likely a tactic which predetermines the ideology-driven conclusion that Florida and other border states (that oppose unions and support choice) are more efficient. I will just cite Hispanic student data as one example why their analysis is invalid.

The term “Hispanic” includes a wide range of subgroups, longterm citizens who are more likely to be affluent than the recent immigrants to places like Oklahoma City; Cubans who came to Florida a half century ago, as well as new arrivals from Mexico and Central America; and high-performing “bilingual” students as well as more costly to educate English Language Learners.

Before trusting the use of racial categories as a proxy for economic status, We should remember that Hispanics in Florida earn a median income which is $1,200 per person more than their counterparts in Oklahoma. The poverty rate for Oklahoma Hispanics who are17 years and younger is about 20 percent higher than Florida’s. Oklahoma Hispanic families are more likely to lack health insurance, with the big difference being that the majority of foreign-born Oklahoma Hispanics lack coverage.

Similarly, the percentage of black Oklahoma children who live in poor households is about 17 percent higher than black children in Florida. Oklahoma youth also are first in the nation in surviving four Adverse Childhood Experiences, and they are growing up in a state that is near the bottom of most child welfare metrics. In other words, the use of race as a substitute for economic advantage and disadvantage is one example why the Reason methodology gives a misleading picture of what it would cost to educate all children.

I must emphasize – contrary to the Reason ideology – that the additional costs to achieve equity are worth it. Education is so important that advocates, conservative, moderate or liberal, should also invest in research that meets high scholarly standards.

New Oklahoma decision-makers should expect plenty of cheap and easy, evidence-free proposals by noneducators. For instance, the legislative interim session was briefed by the Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce’s Oklahoma Achieves. It said that high-challenge schools should learn from systems that have lower per student spending but higher student outcomes. So, the inner city OKCPS schools merely need to emulate the best practices of Deer Creek, Oakdale, and other small, rich, exurban systems!?!?!/vizhome/OklahomaSchoolDistrictSpendingComparedtoStudentOutcomes/SDSpendingComparedtoStudentOutcomes
I would also urge our new legislators and governor to look deeply into the Rutgers Education Law Center’s estimates of what it would take to bring our students to the national average in student performance. Like Florida almost does, Oklahoma spends enough to bring our most affluent quintile of students to the national average, but we would need to invest an additional $6,600 per student to provide equity for our poorest kids. (Florida would only need an additional $4,489 to do so.)

I also hope they will read Bruce Baker’s new book, Educational Inequity and School Finance: Why Money Matters for America’s Students. The renowned scholar, Helen Ladd, writes that Baker “draws on his many years of research to destroy the myth that money in education doesn’t matter, and convincingly argues that equitable and adequate funding are prerequisites for an effective education system.”

The new legislators and governor will face a steep learning curve, and the effort necessary to craft policies based on real science will be intimidating. But as new educators used to be taught, for every complex problem, there is a solution that is quick, simple, and wrong.

Jeb Bush, the puppet-master of corporate reform, is convening his annual “summit” of people who support his love of charters and vouchers. The queen of school choice is the superstar of the event: Eva Moskowitz.

Peruse the agenda to see who supports Jeb Bush’s efforts to privatize public education.

The registration fee is $649, enough to keep out the riffraff.